Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
February 6th, 2022
Excerpt from
A Pocketful of Sundays
EAS c.2005

We cannot belong to God when we give our souls to things, activities, causes, goals, people; we cannot belong to God and "mammon." Instead, we must travel lightly, knowing that all things are God's gift to us, that nothing is permanent.

The water running across the palms of our hands is for refreshment only; we cannot store it, conserve it, bottle it, preserve it. It has movement, like a river. Now it is here, but within seconds it is gone. All is fluid, all is air. Nothing is meant to stay the same or else we ourselves would stay the same-- and our God calls us to grow, not be static.

To cling is to commit the sin of idolatry, the worship of all that is not God. It is to make gods of all that is mere matter, neglecting God in the process. It is to invest in all that can tarnish, all that can decay, all that has limited "shelf life."
We are afraid to leave our comfort zones because we imagine we will never be comfortable again; we are afraid to leave all we have built up because we believe our days for building are over; we prefer servitude to what is known rather than the freedom of surprise.

In spite of our stubbornness, however, the God of surprises continues to beckon us.

When we let go, the angels rejoice because we give God permission to act -- and God, who loves us infinitely more than we love ourselves, leads us to precisely where we need to be...


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  • To what have you been called in the past and how did you know you were being called?

  • Where are you being called in the present moment and what is your response?

  • Why do you think people are so willing to donate to "abundance gurus"?

Greetings, SBT Readers!

Just a brief comment today -- an afterthought, really. As I reflect upon "abundance theology" -- that is, the belief that all we have to do is donate our time, treasure and talent for God to reward us richly in this life-- I am struck by the "shadow" side of this theology:
  • It creates a transactional relationship with God: "I will do this for you, but expect you to do this in return..."
  • It sets us up for a crisis of faith if we give beyond what is comfortable but don't receive the expected outcomes.
  • It makes us feel entitled to the good things of life and does nothing to make us more "other" centered or even grateful.
  • It can cause us to look down on the "have nots" and see them as the "undeserving poor."
  • It blocks us from hearing God's call because we are preoccupied with hauling in the biggest "catch," whatever that happens to be.

And what else would YOU add to this list?




After he had finished speaking, Jesus said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon replied,
“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but because you say so, I will lower the nets.”
When they had done so, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees, saying
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinner.”
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were Simon's partners.
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.
Lk 5:1-11

The televangelist gurus know the abundance formula: give everything to God (or to God's representatives!) and God will reward you with abundance beyond all measure, both in this life and in the next! It's a popular message, one that helps the gurus amass great wealth while giving their followers a certain sense of security. Because of their generosity, their devotees believe they will have good fortune in this life and a guaranteed spot in the world to come -- the best of both worlds, you might say. While mega pastors rejoice in Lamborghinis, private jets and palatial residences, money pours in from every demographic, sometimes in dollar bills, sometimes as credit card donations and sometimes via electronic transactions. No matter the size of the offer, the money piles up and the televangelists ramp up their pitch for Jesus!

Jesus, however, seems to have a different take on abundance. When the fishermen face frustration and scarcity, he orchestrates the miraculous catch of fish that stretches their nets to breaking point and almost sinks their boats. Unlike the televangelists, he asks nothing for himself but provides everything instead. As for the fishermen, they hit the proverbial jackpot but instead of heading home with their haul, they leave everything to follow Jesus.

In effect, the miraculous catch nets the first disciples. Filled with awe and amazement, they leave behind what is undoubtedly their greatest haul, along with their boats and families. Their encounter with over-abundance leads them to know in an instant that they are seeking a different kind of wealth -- one that cannot be measured in fish, currency, security, or public opinion. There is no need for discernment here; nor do the fishermen need time to think things over, say their goodbyes or dispose of the countless fish that are still flopping around in the bulging nets. They simply leave behind their old lives to follow the "something more" that Jesus has to offer.

That "something more" calls each of us. Often, we get stuck in our quest for abundance -- that is, in our preoccupation with financial gain, promotions, possessions, status and other forms of material success. We can be so consumed by these drives that we overlook where God may be calling us. And then, unexpectedly, the call comes, disrupting our every day reality, shattering our complacency as it did for both the prophet Isaiah and St. Paul, as well as for the fishermen in today's Gospel.

The seraph awaits with burning coal to touch our hearts and our lips, and a Voice from heaven asks, "Whom shall I send?"

What will our answer be?

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Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | |

C. All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart,